Sparrow's Guide to
Salvador da Bahia!
The Undisputed Cultural Capital of Brazil ; )
; ) Please take this with a small grain of salt; we love jongo, caxambu, maracatu, Tambor de Mina, Xangô and other straight-from-the-heart-and-soul manifestations of Brazil's brilliant culture!
Salvador da Bahia is the place I've called home for the past 23 years (Brazilians call me "Pardal", Sparrow to English speakers; back in NYC I worked in music, among other things rescuing royalties for Aretha Franklin, Mongo Santamaria, Led Zeppelin, the estate of Duke Ellington, Barbra Streisand and many others)... This guide, such as it is, deals with food and beaches and carnival and history and neighborhoods and much else (there's a full table of contents at the top of every page), including (hearkening back to my earlier work) music. For of the vast profusion of cultural manifestations benighted Bahia is so abundantly blessed with, none is more exalted than what a people will turn to when they are denied the opportunity to create beauty less ephemeral...
... and so Brazil, which denied such opportunity to some ten times the number of enslaved Africans that the United States did, might very well be called The Most Musical Country in the World.
In Brazil certainly, and in many places around the world -- both "underdeveloped" and developed, more so even than stone and glass and steel, music is the soaring and defining architecture. The sad irony is that so much of it, including much of the best, is hidden from our ears. And souls.
Therefore in addition to the guide, there is another aspect to Salvador Central:
Vectored Crowd Intelligence
...are my invention. Or to be less vainglorious, they are a new, potentially very powerful use for the old following/followers setup with some interesting additions.
Are you connected to João do Boi?
The impetus was João do Boi (in the photo with me up top, and in the clip below). His music may or may not be to your taste, but it's realest-deal, straight-from-the-heart-and-soul music of great historical importance. I know of João and his music because I live here and go there (below). But how are you ever supposed to find him off in his quilombo (village founded by runaway slaves)???
So I have a page of musical recommendations, and I recommend him! And then you can go to his page!
Once you're there you can listen to his music and see video clips and read about him... And then you can see who João recommends...
But backing up, who's ever heard of me? So... say you wind up on the page of (or devoted to) Herbie Hancock...and from his page there's a link to Wayne Shorter, and from there there's a link to writer James Gavin, and from his page there's a link to me...and from MY page there's that link to João do Boi. Who recommends...
Get it? Now there are solid connections all the way from lots of people to João! What was formerly inaccessible is now very accessible. Moreover, given the black magic (mathematics) behind "six degrees of separation", beginning from any given page one has pathways to most all others within less than double-digit steps (!).
Recommendations-in-Series is another descriptive term for "chainlinked recommendations", and Vectored Crowd Intelligence is this from another angle:
People en masse know a lot, but how can we take advantage of this in a way to suit our purpose of music (or other) discovery? By relying on recommendations from people we ourselves determine to perhaps be trustable, we can step forward to other perhaps trustable (by our own criteria) people. This process can be repeated indefinitely, something akin to step-by-step one-person peer review, guiding us to where we want to go without perhaps even knowing it!
My own page is here.
CANA BRAVA MUSIC
Did you know that Brazil has gods (football aside)? In the sense that the Greeks and the Romans did? The Greek and Roman gods were done in by Constantine (first blow) and Theodosius (final blow). The gods of Brazil were born in Africa and arrived in Brazil within the negreiros making the Middle Passage, a voyage which transported not only people, but a culture. There was a great attempt by the Brazilian poobahs to exterminate the gods of Africa in Brazil, but it didn't work.
And as the Roman emperors moved to extinguish the very real belief in Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, Minerva and the rest, banning the ceremonies to these deities, the Brazilian "authorities" banned the ceremonies devoted to Oxalá, Oxossi, Iansã, Yemanjá and the rest. But like the ultimate futility of the communist stomping-on of Christianity in Russia, Poland, et al, the piety of the Brazilian ruling class was to no avail (can't you people ever mind your own business!???).
Now, the Greeks and Romans had statues; magnificent, wondrously conceived, wrought and elaborated statues. The Africans had rhythms, and melodies...magnificent, wondrously conceived, wrought and elaborated rhythms, over which are floated (they aren't attached, per Western music) melodies ranging from inspired to sublime. Some of these rhythms (one in particular) are the basis of Brazilian popular music.
So as marble adorns Rome, rhythm adorns Brazil...but to carry the analogy further, as the statues have with the passage of time become fewer and farther between, the modernization of Brazilian popular music has left the rhythms fewer and farther between (excepting those in Bahia's houses of candomblé, these houses multiplying greatly in number over the past few decades)...
But this is Brazil, isn't it? With music everywhere?
Paulinho da Viola - Looks pretty cool to me!
Yes, and yes, but. Samba and its vertentes are based in polyrhythms. And while one may say that Brazilian music was enriched by the confluence of African rhythm-and-melodies and European melodies-and-harmonies, the rhythmic component was, with the Americanization of the 1950s, and then under the effects of the British invasion of the '60s and the astounding market success of first-world music, impoverished. Speaking frankly, it was dumbed down. Detexturized. Anesthetized. Edge and angle taken out. Soothed and smoothed... Witness the birth of bossa nova and MPB (música popular brasileira)! Yes, there was genius there, but not in the strictly African-derived part of the music...that was old-fashioned, not hip.
Thank god for unhip people like Paulinho da Viola! Paulinho came of age in the 60s, when Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil went hippie, they celebrating the we-can-do-anything culture with their invention of tropicália, one ear to the sidewalks of San Francisco and the intersection of Haight-Ashbury...
Paulinho played samba then. He plays samba now. Music. Where somebody sings. And people play instruments. No BS. Paulinho's music was never modern, but it is timeless.
The great Bobby Sanabria quoted the great Art Blakey as saying that a place where jazz is played is a holy place, Bobby following this up with (addressing his audience from the stage) "So thanks for coming to church!"
In the spirit of Art Blakey, a place where samba is played is a holy place...and we ain't talkin' 'bout The Girl from Ipanema. Samba, with all the assaults upon its integrity, never left Brazil. To quote again, now the words of the great Nelson Sargento, it agonizes, but it doesn't die. It's even cool now.
Samba is the local equivalent of those Roman statues.
Come Visit Us at Cana Brava When You're in Town